Friday, February 29, 2008

Selecting Your General Contractor

After years of planning and dreaming about your new timber frame or post and beam home, the time has come to select a contractor. In most instances, you will spend months, even years, working with the same contractor. Here are some important points to ponder before hiring a contractor.

If you have not found a contractor and are not sure where to start, ask friends, family, and relatives for suggestions or check with your local home builders association. It is important to make sure that the scope of work is similar. For instance, the contractor used to remodel your neighbor’s kitchen is probably not the same contractor you would hire to build your new post and beam house.

Drive around and look for new construction for job signs. Most contractors will place a sign at the base of the driveway with their contact information in order for people to call their office. If you see a new home being constructed nearby and it is similarly sized to the home you are going to build, it may be worthwhile to call the contractor and set up an interview. Ask for references from three of their past clients. Most people are proud of their new timber frame homes, and are happy to recommend their builder if they’ve had a good experience with them, and may even invite you into their home to view the quality of the contractor’s work.Once you have interviewed a couple of contractors, there are some important questions to ask, such as the extent of their insurance coverage. Do they have worker’s compensation, property damage, liability? Are their subcontractors insured with the same types of insurance? If asked, will they be able to show proof with a certificate of insurance from their insurance carrier within a few days of your request?

How large is the contractor’s company, where is it located in proximity to your building site, and how many projects are being built simultaneously? If there are several homes being constructed at the same time, it is important to know that the foreman in charge of the construction of your home will be at the site daily to supervise the progress, and there are an adequate amount of subcontractors assigned to work continuously on the construction of your home.

Ask for an estimated start and finish date, but keep in mind that there are some factors, such as unavailability of materials, back ordered items, family emergencies, or unfavorable weather conditions which may delay a project for a couple of days to as long as a couple of months. Please allow yourselves plenty of time for the construction of the home, and remain patient, knowing that some delays are unavoidable. Most reputable contractors will allow a window of completion which could extend to cover any possible delays.

Finally, and most importantly, your level of confidence and trust in your builder is imperative. Do you feel that you are compatible? Will your chosen contractor communicate effectively with you and understand your expectations for the attention to detail and levels of interior finishes of your new timber frame home? There may be some issues which may arise during the construction; will you be able to resolve them effectively? If the answer is yes, then you’ve made a decision you will be comfortable with, and it will help the building process transition smoothly!

Kimberly Bonin, Executive Project Manager
Bonin Architects & Associates, PLLC

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